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Lord Caitanya Festival

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by Haridayananda dasa Brahmacari
(ISKCON Boston)

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On March 29, 1970, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the golden avatara, appeared on the streets of an American city, Berkeley, California. Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself, appeared just to please His devotees and to attract the minds of all living entities who are suffering from the pangs of material entanglement. Lord Caitanya is called Gauranga, or “golden one.” The appearance of the Supreme Lord in His golden form is very rare and auspicious and should be carefully studied and understood by everyone.

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Gauranga first advented Himself 484 years ago in Navadvipa, India, and as a child He exhibited wonderful pastimes. As an infant, sometimes he would cry, and the women and girls of Navadvipa would hurry over to see the beautiful golden baby. They would then clap their hands and sing the holy names, Hare Krsna, Hare Rama, and immediately the infant would stop crying and would smile sweetly upon the women and girls. So even as a young child, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu began to propagate His mission of sankirtana-yajna, or congregational chanting of the holy names, as the most effective means in this age for deliverance from the ocean of material miseries.

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In Vedic literature, the present age is called Kali-yuga, or the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. It is said that in this age, it is very difficult for a common man to successfully complete the eightfold path of mystic yoga, which normally requires many thousands of years of full-time endeavor, and thus in order to make liberation from all material suffering possible in this degraded age, the Supreme Lord kindly appeared in His golden form and propagated the chanting of the holy names. Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself in the guise of His own devotee, reaffirmed the same principles taught by Lord Sri Krsna 5,000 years ago, when the Lord spoke Bhagavad-gita to His friend and disciple Arjuna. Sarva-dharman parityajya, mam ekam saranam vraja. This is the final instruction of Bhagavad-gita, and it means that one should just try to give up all varieties of religiosity, yoga and philosophical speculation and should simply surrender unto Krsna. That is the perfectional stage. Lord Caitanya taught that in this age it is very easy and simple to achieve this: just sing for Krsna and dance for Krsna and feast upon prasadam, or foodstuffs offered to Krsna.

Lord Caitanya Festival

Lord Caitanya Festival

Just as in a boat, there is a captain, so it is natural that one striving for perfection should be guided by a spiritual master so that his devotional activity becomes perfect. To set this example, Lord Caitanya also accepted a spiritual master in the authorized chain of spiritual masters. Such a chain is authorized because it begins with the Supreme Lord, Krsna, and passes down perfect knowledge by perfect hearing and repetition, not relying on mental speculation and interpretation. Lord Caitanya explained that hearing from a bona fide member of the disciplic succession is as good as hearing from the Lord Himself; there is no difference. Although Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Lord, He nevertheless followed this system to set an example, and we should accept His instruction as it is; that is the meaning of surrender.

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Sometimes, as a young boy, Lord Caitanya would run along the banks of the Ganges River, and He would splash water on all the yogis who were sitting staring at the tips of their noses and meditating upon the impersonal effulgence of the Lord. He would tell them, “Just get up and dance for Krsna and praise Him by His holy names. Then you will be the greatest yogi. “This is the version of all the Vedas. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam: “Originally I spoke this ancient science of yoga to the presiding sun-deity, Vivasvan.” So the science of yoga is originally spoken by the Lord. And in Srimad-Bhagavatam we can find, vasudeva-para yogah: “The supreme goal of yoga is to know Krsna.” This was the message of Lord Caitanya, who came just to rouse the sleeping human society. The highest goal of life is to know Krsna, and in this age, one can know Him just by chanting His holy names. Thus one can very easily go back home, back to Godhead, surpassing the stringent material laws of birth, old age, disease and death. That is the kindness of the Lord. The Lord offers everyone this opportunity of supreme liberation, regardless of condition of life.

In order to spread this glorious mission of Lord Caitanya, the devotees of Krsna in Berkeley staged a giant festival to glorify the golden Krsna and to distribute His causeless mercy freely to everyone. Lord Caitanya has declared, “In every town and village, I will be known by the chanting of the holy name,” and the devotees act just to fulfill this prediction. When Gauranga first appeared on this planet, He was always seen to dance in ecstasy, His arms upraised, His chest decorated with fragrant garlands of flowers, and His eyes and cheeks smeared with tears of love of God. Therefore, on the 484th anniversary of His appearance, it was decided to hold a large transcendental festival to glorify Lord Gauranga and attract the minds of all men.

The first step was to construct a large form of Lord Caitanya, rising over twenty feet into the sky. Sometimes less intelligent persons mistake such forms of the Lord to be ordinary statues or idols. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, however, it is stated, vadanti tat tattvavidas, tattvam yad-jnanam advayam: “Those who are actually learned scholars say that the Lord exists beyond all duality.” He is absolute, and no relativity can exist within Him. Therefore there is no difference between the Supreme Lord Himself and His transcendental name, fame, quality, form, pastimes, etc. They are all absolute and identical. This absolute nature of the Supreme Personality of Godhead can never be understood by philosophical word jugglers nor by those who are materially attached to the temporary things of this world. The ordinary materialist, with his severely limited senses, finds it difficult to understand how the Lord can appear in a constructed form, supposedly fashioned of material elements. Such persons are under the jurisdiction of the deluding energy of the Lord, called maya. Due to their illusion, they do not properly utilize their intelligence in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, but instead they use this God-given intelligence to decry the Personality of Godhead. Thus they can never appreciate the unlimited potencies of the Lord. The devotees, however, whose eyes have been opened by the grace of the Lord, correctly perceive the Lord’s factual presence in His name, form, etc.

Therefore, all of the devotees in Berkeley were swept up in a mood of anticipation and expectation. As elaborate preparations were underway, feelings of bliss predominated, and all conversation centered around the wonderful pastimes of the Lord in His munificent golden form. Concerning the planning of the festival, it should be noted that a devotee never artificially puts forward a so-called creation, but tries to the best of his ability to take direction from Krsna within his heart. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, “I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.” Material life means to falsely take credit for our activities, and Krsna consciousness means to understand that actually all credit goes to Krsna. Therefore, when a devotee is seen to be always talking about Krsna, this should not be mistaken for mere sentiment.

1970-01-35-05By Krsna’s grace, the Berkeley police commissioner agreed to shut down Telegraph Avenue for the festival. When the devotees heard of this decision, preparations were swung into full gear, and everywhere around the Bay Area, the blissful news began to spread that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of the entire cosmic situation, would manifest Himself on the 29th of March, on the streets of Berkeley, California, on the anniversary of His original appearance day. And to receive the Lord, who is the reservoir of beauty and strength, a big transcendental parade would be held straight down Telegraph Avenue, with all mundane traffic shut off. The parade would culminate at Willard Park, on Telegraph Avenue and Derby Street, and there the Lord’s festival would be fully celebrated.

1970-01-35-06Days before the festival, the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco were bedecked with glittering golden posters foretelling the appearance of the Lord. Finally the day arrived. All of the devotees from the Bay Area gathered early in the morning in the Berkeley center, and there were many duties to perform. Some devotees swept the temple, others washed the temple, last minute cooking had to be finished, instructive lectures were delivered, etc.

At 1:00, approximately fifteen devotees walked down to the University of Berkeley campus, carrying sacred mrdanga drums and sweet kartals. They were greeted by a swelling crowd of over one thousand people, who had come from many different places to attend the festival. Immediately sankirtana was started. Sankirtana means congregational chanting of the holy name. This sankirtana was introduced by Lord Caitanya, and so it was just proper for the occasion. In all circumstances, the Lord is to be glorified. This is the practical perfection of any activity. In Srimad-Bhagavatam it is stated that any activity which does not involve glorification of the Lord is simply useless labor.

1970-01-35-07Everyone joined the chanting, and the vibration established was like the blissful roar of transcendental lions. The combined sound of the drums, bells, and the holy name was so sweet and relishable that everyone began to raise their arms and dance in ecstasy. This is the effect produced by the chanting of Hare Krsna. After each kirtana, a devotee spoke briefly about the science of Krsna consciousness, and because the words described the unlimited glories of devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, everyone was satisfied at heart and felt as if there were no greater happiness. If this extreme sense of happiness can be felt simply by once chanting the holy names of Krsna and hearing about the wonderful transcendental qualities of the Lord, then what to speak of the happiness of the pure devotee, who is one hundred percent immersed in the ocean of love of God. Srila Rupa Gosvami once prayed, “O my Lord, I am like a bee, and Your lotus feet are the sweetest honey. Therefore, the bees have left the fields and are simply engaged in following You, and I have no desire but to remain at Your lotus feet.”

1970-01-35-08The chanting of Hare Krsna should never be mistaken for ordinary singing because it is actually the most exalted activity of the living entity, and it brings the highest pleasure obtainable anywhere in the three planetary systems. Therefore the chanting of Hare Krsna was especially appropriate for the Appearance Day Festival of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The chanting continued, and soon great waves of transcendental ecstasy began to wash over the crowd. As the chanting grew increasingly blissful, and as thousands of conditioned souls were overcome with transcendental pleasure, suddenly two golden lotus-like hands could be seen reaching high above the trees. In a matter of seconds, the Supreme Personality of Godhead was fully visible dancing in supreme ecstasy, tears of love falling from his lotus-petal eyes, and everyone’s heart began to melt, just as butter melts very quickly when placed on a hot fire.

1970-01-35-09It is said that a mountain of gold, when seen beneath the brilliant sun, is very bright indeed. But the transcendental brilliance of the Supreme Lord, appearing in His original, eternal form of bliss and knowledge, was like millions of suns and hundreds of millions of gold mountains. It is said that the lotus flower which floats upon the surface of the lake is delicate, but the two lotus-petal eyes of the Lord, delicately shedding ecstatic tears of love of God, derided the lotus flower.

1970-01-35-10The Lord was dancing in ecstasy, and His arms were raised high in the sky. His weeping lotus-petal eyes were fixed in a longing gaze toward the transcendental land of Vrndavana, which is the abode of the Lord in His original form of Krsna, Govinda. Around the body of the Lord was wrapped a flowing golden robe, and His chest was bare. The chest of the Lord was like the purest molten gold and was decorated with fragrant flower garlands, which swung, multicolored, from His golden neck. The Lord’s long hair, brilliant and black, played with the wind.

1970-01-35-11Overcome by the sight of the Lord, the devotees fell to their knees and offered repeated obeisances. Some members of the gathered crowd, which now numbered several thousand, also fell to their knees, and others became silent and shy in the presence of the Lord. After proper respects had been offered, kirtana began, more ecstatic than before, and thousands of spirit souls danced blissfully around the Lord, who is the supreme dancer, and whose lotus feet are the only shelter in all the three worlds.

1970-01-35-17How could any man hope to describe the happiness that was felt? The conditioned soul has been transmigrating, since time immemorial, through 8,400,000 species of life, and now the Lord had come personally, just to bring the fallen souls back home, back to Godhead, in full knowledge of their relationship with Him as His parts and parcels.

1970-01-35-14Lord Caitanya was carried on a platform which rested upon the shoulders of His devotees, and at His command, the festivities moved into the street, and the glorious transcendental parade began. This scene of the Lord being carried by His devotees nicely illustrates our actual position. The Lord states in Bhagavad-gita that although He is self-sufficient in every respect, He wi11 accept our service it if is rendered in a devotional mood. The example is given of the father who is pleased to accept the offering of his child. Sometimes at the dinner table the child wi11 take some morsel of food and offer it to his father. The father feels no hunger, and he has originally supplied the food to his son, but still the father relishes the loving attitude of the child. Similarly, Lord Caitanya is so kind that He allows His devotees to serve Him by helping to propagate this chanting of Hare Krsna all over the world, and anyone who joins this great mission will also receive the causeless mercy of Lord Caitanya. Anyone who refuses the mercy of Lord Caitanya is considered most unfortunate and is said to be bewildered about the purpose of human life.

1970-01-35-15With the aim of spreading the mercy of the golden Lord, the procession proceeded to Telegraph Avenue, which was now closed to ordinary traffic. The sounds of kirtana, of drums and bells couching the holy name of Krsna, vibrated uproariously in the sky and on land. The devotees appeared like dancing angels, and everyone felt overcome by transcendental pleasure. Lord Caitanya was like the sun, and His sun-like face was the unlimited drinking pot of all eyes. The procession continued, and the large crowd continued to grow until the parade filled all lanes of the street and spilled onto the sidewalk. Thousands of flowers were distributed, and everyone began to lovingly shower these flowers upon the chest and head of the Lord. The Lord became surrounded by moving rainbows of flowers, and at every moment His beauty increased. Many people along the avenue opened their windows and stared at the transcendental parade, startled to see thousands of boys, girls, men and women dancing in full-fledged transcendental ecstasy, and similarly, many shopkeepers rushed into the street and simply stared at the Supreme Lord as He made His way toward the park.

1970-01-35-16Although everyone was thinking that there could be no greater happiness, when the procession reached the park, the mercy of Lord Gauranga was felt even more strongly than before. The whole atmosphere became surcharged with bliss, like that of Vaikuntha. Vaikuntha means free from anxiety, and it is also the name for the innumerable spiritual planets which are floating in the self-effulgent anti-material sky. The topmost planet in that self-effulgent sky is Krsnaloka, known as Goloka Vrndavana, which is the most confidential abode of the Supreme Lord. This transcendental kingdom of God is not a product of the imagination, but it is forever sealed off from the eyes of materialistic men, whose stock in trade in life is sense gratification only, and who therefore constantly seek to exploit the resources of the material nature in accordance with particular desires. This supreme abode of the Lord, in which there is no need of sunlight or moonlight or electricity, is easily obtained, however, by the unalloyed devotees of the Lord, whose only desire is to render transcendental loving service unto the Lord. The Lord Caitanya Festival was planned by Lord Caitanya just to give the conditioned souls a small taste of the nectar of devotion. If such blissful, all-auspicious activities can occur within the confines of the material world, among ordinary people, then one can hardly imagine the transcendental pastimes of the Lord and His pure devotees which are eternally manifest in the spiritual sky. No one can enter the spiritual sky on the strength of dry philosophical speculation and argumentation. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna advises that only by unalloyed devotion can the Supreme Personality of Godhead be known as He is.

Everyone accompanied the Lord into the park, and the youthful Lord, overcome with transcendental love, danced upon the grass, and His youthful children danced around Him, holding hands, tossing flowers, and bathing their minds in the sacred waters of the holy name. The wind blew the Lord’s long black hair. On top of His head was a wreath of flowers, formed of red, white and yellow blossoms, and His face was streaked with tears.

1970-01-35-21After kirtana, the devotees introduced transcendental theatre. Transcendental theatre means plays and skits exclusively about the Lord and His pure devotees, who are qualitatively on an equal level, although quantitatively different. The first play was entitled, “The Big Fish and the Little Fish,” and the second was entitled “The Saga of Liquid Beauty.” These plays were filled with the Lord’s presence, and thus they were filled with humor, knowledge and transcendental pleasure. Throughout the festival, the devotees remembered the lotus feet of their spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krsna instructs, tad viddhi prani-patena pariprasnena sevaya/upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah: In order to learn this transcendental science of Krsna consciousness and become steadily situated on the transcendental platform of eternal bliss and knowledge, one must, in a humble state of mind, approach a bona fide spiritual master. It is suggested here that one make intelligent inquiries and that one be prepared to render unflinching service unto the spiritual master. In return, the spiritual master benedicts the sincere student with perfect transcendental knowledge. Therefore it is through the causeless mercy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is the most confidential servant of the Lord, that the activities of Krsna consciousness are able to transform the face of the earth.

1970-01-35-20After the transcendental dramatizations had enlivened the hearts of all, a giant transcendental feast was served. The menu included spiced fancy kitterie, which is a nourishing vegetable preparation, heart-melting luglu sesame seed balls, packed with crumbly flavor, crisp, tasty poppers, great lakes of lemonade prasadam, and unlimited reservoirs of super-fruitsalad-buttermilk nectar, which overflooded and purified the senses of everyone. In this way, the contaminated senses of the conditioned souls can be naturally purified, not by artificial cessation of sensory engagements but by engagement of the senses with transcendental sense objects.

1970-01-35-19Lord Caitanya’s festival, a transcendental birthday party for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, was all-successful, all-victorious and all-blissful. This was because Krsna is the husband of the goddess of fortune. Everyone in material life is eager for fortune, but the goddess of fortune is restless, and no one can always be fortunate within the material world. But if one is surrendered unto the husband of the goddess of fortune, then his success is assured, for the goddess of fortune never leaves the chest of the Personality of Godhead. Therefore, these activities were able to continue for long hours, but no one felt fatigue or satiation. The hearts of thousands were gently plowed by the causeless glancing of The Lord, and the seed of love of Krsna was implanted.

Finally, when the sun gave way to a cool twilight sky, Lord Caitanya decided to return to His temple, at 2710 Durant Avenue, and so He was borne upon the backs of His tireless devotees, and He began to move through the quiet streets. As the night grew late, the devotees reluctantly took rest, and as they looked into the yard, beneath their blankets they could see that the Lord was continuing to dance in ecstasy and that there was no cessation of tears gliding from His two gorgeous eyes. As the devotees were overcome by sleep, the golden Lord danced all through the night. Therefore, who will not join in the glorious mission of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu?

The readers of this article are requested to sit down, or stand, and clap their hands and repeat the holy names delivered by Lord Caitanya:

Certainly no one should be envious of Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself, nor doubt the power of His mission, which cannot be checked by any force. Everyone is humbly invited to join immediately this glorious, transcendental movement and to abandon the darkness and ignorance of dry mental speculation. All glories to Lord Caitanya, the unrivaled beauty, whose blooming lotus-petal eyes are constantly decorated with tears of transcendental love, who is the fountainhead of transcendental mercy, the reservoir of unlimited seeds of devotion to God, and the core of the heart of the pure devotee.

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